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October 2017 Issue
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2017’s best alpine packs

If your alpine aspirations require carrying ice axe, crampons or technical equipment, a dedicated alpine pack is essential.

It’s not uncommon to have a couple of alpine packs, anywhere from 35 to 75 litres. A small pack for day climbs or light overnight trips and something bigger for those multi-day trips where you want the lightest pack possible, but still with the capacity and fixtures for carrying equipment. Alpine trips require heavy loads, so it’s worth saving weight by having the right pack for the job.

A fixed back-length is desirable, both for fail-safe simplicity and weight saving. Excessive padding and air-flow harnesses aren’t necessary as you’ll usually be wearing more clothing. Look for a simple, but durable frame system. Some alpine pack frames comprise a folded foam mat that can be used for camping and bivouacs.

A removable or fold-away hipbelt will allow easy access to your climbing harness.

Gear storage
Compression straps and small, open pockets at the pack’s base make it easy to carry snow anchors, tent poles or an avalanche probe. External zip pockets are generally restricted to the lid. Essential features are tool holsters and gear loops on the waist belt – handy for stashing your ice axe or clipping gear to while climbing.

The main considerations are weight and abrasion resistance; these factors both outweigh waterproofness, so it’s common to see polyurethane-coated polyester fabrics, usually in the 210-600 Denier range. Look for higher-denier fabrics in areas such as the base and at tool attachment points.

Because alpine packs tend to be narrow, there is a tendency for them to be top heavy. Careful packing alleviates this, but also try on different packs to suit your torso length and pick a harness style that is comfortable for you.

Compression straps help to pull the load closer to your back and to squash the pack down when it’s not at full capacity.

General features
Other features may include a removable lid; rope/compression strap under lid; a ‘haul point’ for attaching a rope to haul the pack; hydration compatibility; a few extra attachment points – like daisy chains – for ‘overflow’ equipment, such as tent and climbing helmet.

Lowe Alpine Mountain Ascent 40:50 $349.95
Double Head Locker axe attachment system, top and lower entry, removable hipbelt, WebCatcher fastening system, moulded foam harness, removable frame, wide ski slots, compression system. Fabric HydroShield 330D, 420D TriShield Dura Capacity 40+10-litre Weight 1420g.
The North Face Shadow 30+10 $350
Carries up to 20kg, integrated tool keepers, roll-top closure, removable internal waterproof pocket, spring steel frame, hipbelt pockets, hydration sleeve, removable frame sheet. Fabric 210D nylon, 201D ripstop nylon Capacity 40-litre Weight 907g.